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3 Good Drinks from Harry Craddock's 'The Savoy Cocktail Book'

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[Photo: Michael Dietsch]

Harry Craddock may be the only bartender ever immortalized by a wax statue in Madame Tussaud's, though he's not the only barkeep who deserves such an honor.

Craddock was born in England in 1875. As a young man, he moved to the United States. He worked in Cleveland and Chicago, before moving to New York to serve drinks at various famous bars, including the Knickerbocker and the Holland House. When Prohibition dropped the boom on American bartenders, Craddock was one of many who took to an ocean liner and set off for Europe. He landed in London, resumed tending bar, and by 1925 was head bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel.

Craddock's style of bartending brought him great fame and many followers. The American style of cocktail-making had never quite caught on in London until Craddock came along, and he made it very popular.

Craddock apparently never returned to the United States. He worked at the Savoy for nearly 20 years before moving to a gig at the Dorchester Hotel, where he worked until 1947. He then moved on to Brown's Hotel for a few years. Upon his death at 87, in 1963, Craddock was poor—he shares his gravesite with two other men.

Craddock only wrote one book, the Savoy Cocktail Book, but many of the cocktails in that book are justly renowned and worth adding to your repertoire. The Corpse Reviver #2 is probably the most famous, but we've written about that drink many times before, so we'll move on to a few other cocktails from Savoy that you should know.

Atty

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[Photo: Jennifer Hess]

The Atty cocktail appears to be a direct descendent of an earlier cocktail, the Attention. Craddock's book is famous, of course, and not just for its playful design, its impressive length and depth, and its role in helping to keep cocktail culture alive during Prohibition. Craddock's book is also famous for lifting much of its material wholesale from a less well known work, Hugo Ensslin's 1917 book, Recipes for Mixed Drinks.

The Attention appeared in Hugo Ensslin's 1917 book as an equal parts melange of gin, vermouth, absinthe, and crème de violette. By all accounts, it's rather vile.

Craddock's Atty has the same ingredients, but in far more tasty proportions. The Savoy variant comes across as a dressed-up martini, with the absinthe and violette reduced to much subtler status. It's a luscious drink, and one that every cocktail fan needs to try.

Get the Recipe »

Hanky Panky

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[Photo: Jessica Leibowitz]

Unfortunately, Craddock's arrival at the Savoy wasn't great news for the bartenders already working there. Craddock had a perhaps understandable (given the era) but regrettable attitude toward seeing women working behind the bar. Ada Coleman was one of two women demoted from the bar upon Craddock's arrival. Coleman, of course, invented another famous Savoy cocktail, the Hanky Panky, a deceptively simple blend of gin, Fernet Branca, and sweet vermouth.

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Leap Year

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[Photo: Jennifer Hess]

The Leap Year appears in Craddock's book with the improbable claim, "It is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail that has ever been mixed." That sounds like a bunch of hookum to me, but what do I know? I've proposed somewhat fewer than ten times, so it's not like I have much expertise on marriage proposals. If you only enjoy this one once every four years, though, you're missing out. I'd drink this once every four days.

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How's Your Drink?

Have you sipped your way through the Savoy Cocktail book? Which Craddock classics would you recommend to everyone?

About the author: Michael Dietsch approaches life with a hefty dash of bitters. He lives with wife, son, and cats in Brooklyn. Find him on twitter at @dietsch.

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